Basic Information About 6.390

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Table of Contents

1) Basic Information§

6.390 introduces principles, algorithms, and applications of machine learning from the point of view of modeling and prediction; formulation of learning problems; representation, over-fitting, generalization; classification, regression, reinforcement-learning, sequence learning, clustering; classical and neural-network methods.

2) Prerequisites§

Concretely, things we expect you to know (we use these constantly, but don’t teach them explicitly):

  • Programming

    • Intermediate Python, including the notion of classes.
    • Exposure to algorithms – ability to understand & discuss pseudo-code, and implement in Python.
  • Linear Algebra

    • Fundamental matrix manipulations, e.g., transpose, multiplication, and inverse.
    • Points and planes in high-dimensional space.
    • Basic matrix calculus, e.g., gradients.

6.1010 [6.009] or 6.1210 [6.006] can serve as the programming prerequisite. 18.06, 18.C06, 18.03, or 18.700 can serve as the linear algebra prerequisite.

3) Course Components§


Rather than having a single large lecture, we will instead have sections that meet twice per week, on Monday and Wednesday. The Monday section meeting will be Recitation, focused on discussing examples and working through interesting problems. The Wednesday section meeting will be a Lab assignment that you work through with a student partner and get in-lab checkoffs on.

Seven sections will be offered:

Section Time Room Instructor
1 9:30am-11am 34-501 Shen Shen
2 9:30am-11am 32-044 Vince Monardo
3 11am-12:30pm 34-501 Tomas Lozano-Perez
4 11am-12:30pm 32-044 Marzyeh Ghassemi
5 1pm-2:30pm 34-501 Wojciech Matusik
6 1pm-2:30pm 32-044 Ashia Wilson
7 2:30pm-4pm 34-501 Shen Shen

Recitations will be at the specified location and time on Mondays, and will be synchronous. You may only attend your officially assigned Recitation section. Your Lab section number (and meeting time and location) will be the same as your Recitation section number, on the following Wednesday. If you are sick, please do not attend recitation or lab; for illness or personal situations, see the guidelines below.


Online exercises (available and completed through the course website) will be due each Monday by 9:00am Eastern, based on weekly online readings. The intention is for you to read the lecture notes and do these exercises, so as to maximize the value of your participation in the recitation itself and to begin learning the material in advance of the next lab and homework.


Each student must attend a weekly 1.5 hour lab session on Wednesday. You must attend the same section for recitation and lab. The lab session will be synchronous. We will be using the lab to engage students with each other in small teams (typically two to three students per team) and with staff, to explore fundamental concepts in advance of individual work in the homeworks.

You may only attend your officially assigned lab section. Typically, each lab will require a "checkoff" --a brief discussion with a staff member on the topic of the assigned problems. The checkoff is generally expected to be completed by the end of the lab section meeting; however, the checkoff can be completed by the lab deadline (generally Monday 11pm Eastern after the lab section) in office hours without late penalty. If you are sick, please do not attend lab; For illness or personal situations, see the guidelines below.


Homework is generally released each Monday at 9am Eastern, and is due online (through the course website) the following Wednesday at 11pm Eastern.

Midterm and Final Exam

TThe Midterm Exam will be held on Thursday March 23, 2023 from 7:30pm-9:30pm Eastern; it is an in-person, written exam.

The Final Exam will be held on Tuesday, May 23 2023, 1:30pm-4:30pm, in Johnson Track; it is an in-person, written exam.

4) Getting help on 6.390§

Please follow guidelines this page when asking for help (and note that the best way to get help depends on the kind of question you have).

5) Illness and personal issues§

If you are sick you should not attend recitation, lab, or in-person office hours -- we will excuse attendance points for illness so you will not be penalized; contact 6.390-personal@mit.edu for consideration. Also, if you have personal issues impacting your attendance, or other personal difficulties affecting your progress on assignments, please see a Dean in Student Support Services, and then you and the Dean should contact 6.390-personal@mit.edu for assistance and handling of the situation. Please do NOT email any of the course staff directly.

6) Mental Health§

MIT is a challenging environment, and 6.390 is a challenging course. As such, it is normal to expect some level of stress (and a lot of hard work) during 6.390. A certain level of stress is healthy and is part of the learning process (if it were easy, you probably wouldn't be learning much!). However, too much stress can be a bad thing, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, we want to help, so please don't hesitate to reach out.

Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues (including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, substance/alcohol abuse, or problems with eating or sleeping), we strongly encourage you to contact or visit one or more of the following resources, who may be able to provide additional guidance and support:

7) Accommodations§

We are committed to the principle of equal access, and we are more than willing to make arrangements to help accommodate students with disabilities or related challenges. In general, knowing about the kind of help you need earlier in the semester means that we'll be better prepared to provide that help effectively, in coordination with Disability and Access Services. If you have a disability and are not planning to use accommodations, it is still recommended that you meet with DAS staff to familiarize yourself with their services and resources. If you have been approved for accommodations by DAS, 6.390 staff are ready to assist with implementation. Please send these approved requests to 6.390-personal@mit.edu to inform us, and we will work to implement these accommodations.

8) Listeners§

Due to capacity and other constraints, we will not accept Listener registrants in 6.390 this semester. We are sorry about that, and can offer, as an alternative, the complete course material from three years ago, including lectures, readings, and online homework.